LGBTQ Equality

Americans United urges California appeals court to rule religious freedom is not a license for Bakersfield bakery to discriminate

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Americans United for Separation of Church and State, joined by four religious freedom and civil rights organizations, urged a California appeals court to rule that Cathy’s Creations, a Bakersfield bakery, does not have a religious-freedom right to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people.

In an amicus brief filed Thursday in the case Civil Rights Department v. Cathy’s Creations, Americans United and allies explained that the state’s anti-discrimination law requiring businesses to treat customers equally does not violate constitutional religious freedom protections. The brief explains that the Unruh Act protects not only LGBTQ+ people from discrimination, but also religious minorities and customers with other protected characteristics, such as race, sex, age and ability.

“Everyone should have equal access to goods and services, regardless of who they love”

“In America, everyone should have equal access to goods and services, regardless of who they love, who they are, how they worship, or what they look like,” said Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United. “Our Constitution’s promise of church-state separation means that religious freedom cannot be turned into a license to discriminate.

“Christian Nationalists are trying to drag this country back to the days when people from marginalized communities were forced to go door to door because businesses displayed signs like ‘No Jews, No Blacks, No Irish.’ Decades ago we as a society agreed that when a business decides to open its doors to the public, it must be open to all. If religious extremists are successful in getting the courts to allow religiously motivated discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, that license to discriminate could harm other vulnerable communities too.

“We need a national recommitment to the separation of church and state if we’re to save our democracy and ensure freedom without favor and equality without exception under the law.”

About AU’s brief in Cathy’s Creations case

Organizations joining AU’s brief include Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice; Global Justice Institute; Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association; and Sikh Coalition. The brief was authored by AU Litigation Counsel Bradley Girard and AU Legal Fellow Jenny Samuels.

Americans United is a religious freedom advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, AU educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

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